North Texas

A Better ACL Surgery for Kids?

What to Know

  • A strip of tissue from the side of the thigh is used for the repair.
  • The recovery is still the same as any ACL procedure.
  • Most kids are back to their sport of choice within a year after the injury.

The injury can have your little athlete sitting on the sidelines. ACL tears normally require surgery, and the rate of injury has skyrocketed by nearly 400 percent in adolescents over the past 15 years. Now see how a new technique is protecting children’s knees and getting them back to the sports they love!

“I like to play soccer, basketball, I like to run a lot,” said Matthew Lefkowitz.

Like most 11-year-olds, Matthew Lefkowitz was super active, until the day he tore his ACL playing soccer.

“It was really painful," he said. "I was crying a lot.”

In most cases, doctors recommend surgery to reconstruct the ligament that provides crucial stability to the knee. But when it comes to children, it’s important to protect their growth plates.

“So you don’t injure them, causing one leg to be longer than the other, or even grow at an abnormal angle,” said Dr. Jeremy Frank, a Pediatric Sports Medicine Surgeon at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.

That’s why Frank is using a specialized technique to rebuild a child’s ACL.

“We’re taking a strip of tissue from the side of the thigh, that tissue is called the iliotibial band, or IT band,” Frank explained.

The surgeon then wraps that tissue around the thighbone, through the knee, and stitches it into the top of the shin bone.

“Therefore, we’re not drilling any holes whatsoever in the bones, and not risking any injury to the growth plate,” Frank said.

Of course, Matthew's mom, Nina Lefkowitz, was still worried when her son went in for surgery.

“Would he come out and be able to play and run the same way he always did?” said Nina Lefkowitz.

A year late Matthew Lefkowitz is back on the field!

“I recently just got cleared by Dr. Frank that I don’t need any brace anymore to play sports,” said Matthew Lefkowitz.

He wants other kids not to be scared if they need ACL surgery. “I feel great. I feel like it never happened,” he said.

Getting kids back to the sport they love.

The recovery is still the same as any ACL procedure: physical therapy for up to five months and light activity like swimming or biking three months after surgery. Most kids are back to their sport of choice within a year after the injury. Frank says the re-rupture rate in children is between five and ten percent.

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Judy Reich, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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